19 June 2011

(03) M3L80URN3

I can't believe I haven't posted anything on Melbourne yet.  I still have one last post to draft up about my world travels (the Thaipasum Festival at the Batu Caves) but I'll save it for later.

I've been living and working in Melbourne for three months now.  I love this place to bits.  Here are some pictures and Dr Seuss quotes that sum up my experience so far:

"I like nonsense. It wakes up the brain cells."
"From there to here, from here to there, funny things are everywhere!" 
"Today was good. Today was fun. Tomorrow is another one." 
"They say I'm old-fashioned, and live in the past, but sometimes I think progress progresses too fast!"
"Think and wonder, wonder and think."
"We are all a little weird and life's a little weird, and when we find someone whose weirdness is compatible with ours, we join up with them and fall in mutual weirdness and call it love."

17 June 2011

KuLu Tu: Trekkin Happy Time

The last leg of my travels (it's so long ago now it seems like a dream) was Kuala Lumpur.  It was mid January and it was hot, humid and bustling with energy.  Judging from KL's location near the equator, I think such weather is the norm there.

I checked into one of my favourite hostels in the world, Red Palm, where my pal (who I'd met six months earlier), Mac, works.  I told Mac I wanted to spend a day or two out of town, in a place more congenial to my exhausted soul.   The next morning, a local forty/fifty-something year old man named Happy picked me up.  We stopped for breakfast at Kuala Kubu Baru, a district with a large Indian population, before heading off to the Chiling Waterfall.

Kuala Kubu Baru
Happy is an irrepressibly charismatic man.  You would never have guessed he spent a career working in insurance.  After ten near-death experiences, he decided to read the Tao Te Ching, the Koran, the Bible, and other primary religious texts from front to back.  He believes there is one common underlying thread between all these texts, and that is, that God is within all of us.  He memorises and recited a number of quotes from each of these texts that supports this assertion.  Yet, he doesn't understand why there is so much conflict between religions today.

This is the back of Happy's head.  He has a strange scar that resembles the number 10 which reflects the number of near-death experiences he's had.  Examples of such experiences include a heart attack and night-dive where he was face to face with a shark.
Trekking towards the waterfall
After one and a half hours of discussing spirituality, chopping through thick shrubs and wading through waste-high waters, we arrived at the inspiring and secluded Chiling Waterfalls.  We were truly off the beaten track - at least I thought so, until we stumbled upon some of his old friends who also knew of the waterfall.

Here, I fed some fish, jumped off boulders and went for a relaxing swim.  As we trekked back towards our base through the jungle, Happy taught me some interesting facts about many of Malaysia's native plants and how we, as humans, can learn from their survival techniques.

Chiling Waterfall
Leaves that resembled the pattern on a soccer ball!
The last stop of the day was the Batang Kali Hot Springs.  It was at these hot springs that I thought Happy might actually be crazy.  The water in these hot springs was between 42 to 49 degrees celsius.  Upon arriving, he immersed his whole body, including his head, into the hot pool of water.  Then he told me it was my turn.  First, I splashed some of the water onto my feet.  They turned red almost instantaneously.  I thought I was about to be involved in some sort of religious suicide.

After providing me with some mental exercises, he taught me to control my mind over my body and I managed to submerge myself in the hot pool of water without feeling any pain.  I felt like I had been exorcised.  It was surreal.  My body was red and swollen for the remainder of the day!

03 June 2011

Cairo Part II / London Part II

My last few days in Cairo were depressing. I was exhausted and lonely, and I was the only guest at my hostel. I flicked on the television and was shocked to see the horror that was unfolding in Brisbane. CNN covered the floods incessantly throughout the night. I saw familiar images of home completely submerged in water; from parts of my campus in St Lucia to the riverside bikeway I had ridden on every day for the past year. I logged onto facebook to find some even more unsettling images; the apartment I had lived in for the past two years was inundated with water. In the hours to follow, I was gripped on both the computer and television screens. It was amazing to see the resilience and unity of those in Brisbane, and, in a way, this made me extremely homesick. I desperately wanted to catch the next flight back to Brisbane to help out, and to make sure everyone was alright.

I spent the last couple days in Cairo wandering the streets by myself. I had never felt so isolated and paranoid in my life. I had just heard on the news that a policeman had opened fire on everyone in a train carriage before shooting himself. This occurred a couple stops away from where I was staying. Then I’d learnt that there was a bomb blast in a nearby town that killed over a dozen people. I also wasn’t sure how my friends and family were dealing with the floods back home, as many of them didn’t have power or a means to respond to my correspondences.

I was then informed that London, my next destination, had raised its terror alert level up a notch. The thought of flying in a plane from Cairo to London became extremely daunting for me. The actual flight itself was even more daunting. The lax security at Cairo airport concerned me greatly. Our flight was delayed twice because of a supposed imposter on our plane. As I sat in the back row, I overheard one of the air stewardesses telling another that the headcount came up with one too many passengers. We had been seated on the plane for almost an hour and had not left the tarmac this whole time. As I prepared myself for what I thought was my impending death, I was relieved to hear that the errant headcount was a result of a mistake; a stewardess had counted a baby on board when she shouldn’t have.

I was relieved when I touched down in London safely. I only spent a few days there and I was busy catching up with friends and organising the shipment of my items back to Australia. Soon after, I heard about the uprising unfolding in Egypt. I considered myself extremely lucky to be staying out of danger.

While London was covered in snow, the Tate Museum was covered in sunflower seeds! Aurora and I visited Ai Wei Wei’s famous sunflower seed exhibit whereby one million porcelain replica sunflower seeds were scattered across the floor. Each of the one million sunflower seeds were hand-fired and hand-painted by inhabitants of Jingdezhen, the 'porcelain capital' of his native China.

My remaining time in London was quite unmemorable, primarily because it involved a lot of drinking. One night we went on a mission to Brick Lane and ended up sleeping on the floor of James’ place in Vauxhall. Another night we went to my favourite cheese and wine spot in the world, Gordon’s, just by the Embankment Tube Station.